September 2020 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 August 2020
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Cooperation between the UN and Regional Organisations: the Role of the International Organization of La Francophonie

Expected Council Action

In September, Niger is expected to organise an open debate on cooperation between the UN and regional organisations, focusing on the role of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). Expected briefers are the Secretary-General of the OIF, Louise Mushikiwabo; a representative of the UN Secretariat; and possibly a civil society representative. A concept note will be circulated; no outcome is expected. 

Key Recent Developments

The OIF—also sometimes referred to as La Francophonie or, in English, as the International Organisation of La Francophonie—represents 84 UN member states and governments that share French as a common language. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the OIF. Headquartered in Paris, the OIF has the following goals, according to its website:

  • promoting the French language and cultural and linguistic diversity;
  • promoting peace, democracy and human rights;
  • supporting education, training, higher education and research; and
  • developing economic cooperation for sustainable development.

Louise Mushikiwabo has been Secretary-General of the organisation since 1 January 2019. She previously served as Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. The OIF has had observer status at the UN since 1998. As almost two-thirds of UN peacekeepers are deployed in Francophone areas, for more than 15 years, much of the OIF’s UN-related work has been focused on aspects of peacekeeping. OIF has partnered with France, for example, to hold training sessions to increase the preparedness level of French-speaking contingents to respond to operational, ethical, and cross-cutting issues. A significant priority for the OIF has been advocating for increased participation of women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding. For instance, the OIF has given grants to an organisation in Madagascar that supports women’s involvement in security sector reform and, in response to COVID-19, created a solidarity fund to support vulnerable women in Africa and the Caribbean called “La Francophonie avec Elles”. 

Women’s participation is a subject on which the OIF has spoken before. On 27 October 2017, then-Secretary-General of the OIF Michaëlle Jean participated in the annual open debate on women, peace, and security with other briefers. She mostly focused her remarks on the implementation of resolution 1325, which recognised the importance of women’s participation in ending conflict. She called on international organisations, regional groups, civil society, and states to do more to promote the inclusion of women and gave examples of the OIF’s work in this area.

The OIF has had intermittent official interactions with the Council on other occasions. On 7 November 2016, the Council held a ministerial-level open debate on “Peace operations—facing asymmetric threats”, with a briefing by Jean. On several occasions, the OIF has also joined the UN and other international organisations in statements on countries on the Council agenda, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.

Key Issues and Options

This open debate is expected to address different aspects of the role played by the OIF, including its contribution to addressing peace and security issues, strengthening the rule of law, and providing specialised training and capacity-building for troop-contributing countries. More specifically, Council members and briefers may discuss the OIF’s contribution in terms of conflict prevention, especially around contested elections. According to the OIF’s supporters, it has valuable expertise that can help address such issues and prevent potential disputes.

Council and Wider Dynamics

The Council’s interactions with regional organisations have occurred in the spirit of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, which encourages the resolution of local disputes by regional arrangements or agencies as long as their efforts are consistent with the principles and purposes of the UN. The understanding of “regional organisations” is somewhat broad: the OIF, headquartered in Paris, has six regional offices and permanent representations to the UN (in New York and Geneva), the EU, and the AU.  It also has wide international membership.  The discussion of such organisations at the Council falls under the item referring to regional organisations.

The AU and the EU have had the most developed relationships–including regular briefings and visits–with the Security Council.  Over the past few years, discussions with regional organisations have become more common, with Council presidencies from the respective region taking the initiative. On 13 June 2019, Kuwait convened a high-level briefing on cooperation with the League of Arab States (LAS). In a presidential statement adopted following the meeting, the Council encouraged the practice of receiving an annual briefing by the Secretary-General of the LAS and convening an annual informal meeting between Security Council members and the members of the Council of the LAS. On 25 September 2019, Russia organised a ministerial-level meeting on the work of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Commonwealth of Independent States, with a focus on their role in counter-terrorism efforts. On 30 January, under the presidency of Viet Nam, the Council held its first ever briefing on cooperation between the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

More generally, the Council often invites representatives of regional or other international organisations to participate in its meetings, particularly as briefers. For example, the Community of Lusophone-Speaking Countries often spoke about peacebuilding at meetings on Guinea-Bissau.

As for the OIF, supporters of its work see it as an important tool to gather a wide variety of delegations for dialogue and planning. They believe this helps increase inclusive discussions on Council agenda items with the wider membership. OIF members may also want to see the OIF’s extensive contributions to crisis prevention, crisis resolution, peacebuilding, and development acknowledged on a wider stage.

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UN Documents on Cooperation between the UN and Regional Organizations

Security Council Presidential Statements
13 June 2019S/PRST/2019/5 This was a presidential statement encouraging the holding of an annual briefing by the Secretary-General of the LAS and the holding of an annual informal meeting between members of the Security Council and the Council of the LAS.
Security Council Meeting Records
30 January 2020S/PV.8711 The Council heard a briefing on the cooperation between the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This was the first Council meeting focused on cooperation with ASEAN.
25 September 2019S/PV.8626 This was a ministerial-level debate on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organisations, focusing on the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in countering threats to peace and security, with a special focus on counter-terrorism efforts.
27 October 2017S/PV.8079 This was the annual open debate on Women, Peace and Security with briefings by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed; Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; Secretary-General of the International Organisation of Francophonie Michaëlle Jean; and Charo Mina Rojas, a civil society representative from Colombia.

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